Scotland’s health and social care workers secure ground-breaking safe staffing law

It is the first legislation of this kind in the UK to apply to both health and social care services.

Matt Bodell
3 May 2019
Scotland Safe Staffing

Unions will now work towards developing and implementing the new rules.

Staffing for safe and effective care in Scotland’s hospitals and care homes has been enshrined in law following a final debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday.


Health and social care professionals rallied together to demand legislation that would do more than put the existing workload and workforce planning tools on a statutory footing.

It is the first legislation of this kind in the UK to apply to both health and social care services.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the commitment to put safe staffing on a statutory footing from the stage of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress in 2016. Since then RCN members have been working to influence and shape this legislation.

In November, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said he would ‘consider’ rolling out similar legal protections in England but warned they have ‘unintended consequences’.


Wales introduced similar legislation in April 2017.

Legislation alone will not solve the crisis.

The RCN has championed the role of the Senior Charge Nurse and their equivalent in the community in co-ordinating safe care and developing nursing teams to ensure they have the skills and experience they need. The RCN will be pushing to have this unique role, and the need for SCNs not to carry a direct patient caseload, to be recognised in guidance.

Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland Director, said: “Throughout the campaign our members consistently asked for more from the legislation. It’s clear that their personal stories have had an impact and that they have been listened to.

“With this legislation the Scottish Government has set expectations on standards of care and who is accountable for maintaining safe staffing.


“Over the coming months we will continue our work, supporting the development of guidance and the plan for implementation.

“However, we’ve been clear from the outset that legislation alone will not solve the nursing staff challenges that face Scotland’s NHS and care home sector.  What’s needed is a change in our wider safety culture and a fully funded, long-term workforce planning process that ensures Scotland has the right number of nursing staff to meet future needs.” 

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